Determining the interview questions

Structured interviews around predetermined questions result in consistencies in the information collected about applicants.

Sufficient time must be allocated to the development of the interview questions. It is highly unlikely that a quality question will be created 15 minutes before the first applicant arrives. All members of the selection committee should be given the opportunity to contribute to the formulation of the interview questions well in advance of the first interview.

The following points may assist in developing questions:

  • questions should be framed so that they address the selection criteria and the position description
  • questions should focus on the inherent requirements of the position
  • questions about personal issues, such as marital, parental or relationship status, carer arrangements, religious beliefs, lifestyle or previous medical history are inappropriate
  • ask all candidates the same pre-determined questions however you should feel free to add supplementary questions to probe specific areas and explore an individual's claims in more depth
  • it should be determined in advance which questions are to be asked by each committee member
  • the selection committee should also agree on what constitutes an acceptable answer to each question
  • questions should be open-ended, clear and concise
  • it may be useful to test the questions on staff not involved in the selection process
  • where possible use behavioural interview questions which encourage applicants to explain past situations where they have applied their skills.

Behavioural questions

Behavioural interview questions seek to identify how a person has acted in specific situations in the past. The logic is that past performance predicts future performance in similar situations. Studies have shown this technique to be much more accurate than traditional interview questions when selecting new staff members.

One strategy for preparing behavioural interview questions is to use the STAR Approach. Questions should aim to get the candidate to describe:

  • an example of a specific work-related situation that the candidate has faced (SITUATION / TASK)
  • how the candidate responded to the situation (ACTION)
  • the outcome of the candidate's response (RESULT).

You can also use some of the sample Behavioural Interview Questions in the Recruitment and Selection resources to help you develop your interview questions.

The STAR approach

STAR Example questions
Situation or Task questions
  • Tell us about a time when...
  • Describe a situation when...
  • What were the circumstances surrounding...?
Action questions
  • Exactly what did you do?
  • Describe specifically how you did that.
  • Describe your specific role in the project.
  • Walk us through the steps you took
Result questions
  • What was the result?
  • How did that work out?
  • What problems/success resulted from...?
  • What feedback did you receive?


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